The U.S. State Department has issued an updated travel warning for Mexico, warning of the risk of traveling to certain parts of the country due to criminal activities that include homicide, kidnapping, carjacking and robbery. The updated travel warning, which was released August 22, replaces an earlier travel warning issued December 8, 2016.
The State Department warns of three types of kidnapping: “traditional,” in which a victim is physically abducted and held for ransom; “express,” in which a victim his held for a short time and forced to withdraw money; and “virtual,” in which a victim is coerced by phone threats to provide phone numbers of family and friends, and then isolated until a ransom is paid. The State Department notes that hotel guests have been the targets of “virtual” kidnapping schemes. The State Department also warned that U.S. citizens have been murdered in carjackings and highway robberies, with victims stopped by roadblocks or being run off the road.
At the same time, the State Department says that resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the level of drug-related violence and crime that is present in the border region or along major trafficking routes. Additionally, there is no evidence that criminal organizations have targeted U.S. citizens based on their nationality.
The State Department also offers a state-by-state assessment of the security situation that includes some popular travel areas. In Baja California Sur, which includes Los Cabos, the homicide rate has been on the rise since last year. While most homicides appeared to be assassinations by criminal organizations, turf battles have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens.
In Guerrero, which includes Acapulco, Ixtapa, Taxco and Zihuatanejo, the State Department has prohibited personal travel for U.S. government personnel. Self-defense groups operate independently in many of the areas of this state, with some armed groups maintaining roadblocks. Although not hostile to foreigners or tourists, they are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable, the State Department said.
In Jalisco, which includes Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta, the State Department is asking U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to areas that border the states of Michoacan and Zacatecas due to continued instability. In Nayarit, which includes the Riviera Nayarit coast, U.S. government personnel are allowed to travel using major highways, but intercity travel at night is prohibited.
In Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya and Tulum, there has also been an increase in homicide rates as a result of targeted assassinations. Turf battles have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens, and shooting incidents have injured or killed innocent bystanders.
No advisory is in effect for Campeche, Guanajuato (includes San Miguel de Allende and Leon), Hidalgo, Mexico City, Puebla, Queretaro, Tabasco (includes Villahermosa) Tlaxcala and Yucatan (includes Merida and Chichen Itza).
The updated travel warning comes less than a month after gunmen opened fire on a popular tourist beach in Los Cabos while the beach was crowded with Mexican and foreign tourists, killing three and wounding two others. Reports at the time indicated that the violence may have been due to fighting between drug cartels.
Earlier this month the State Department also updated its Safety and Security information on Mexico to reflect allegations of travelers falling ill after consuming alcohol at Mexico resorts. While not an official travel warning, in the Safety and Security section of its Mexico country page the State Department advised travelers to drink in moderation and seek medical attention if they feel ill. Later, a test by the government of Mexico found no indication of tainted alcohol at the Iberostar Paraiso del Mar, one of the resorts cited in the reports.